Are Republicans Still
Pro-Military?

Looking over the scene, two seemingly unrelated stories caught my eye. First, 48 percent of Americans trust the military, down from 70 percent only four years ago. And, a bunch of homosexuals who like dressing up like dogs felt free to use their uniforms to proclaim their fetish, to the consternation of normal people everywhere. 

No one in his right mind serving in the military would show himself with a Confederate flag, even anonymously, and especially not in uniform. One could expect the FBI’s top assets to be deployed to root out such an offender, just as they are occasionally used to hunt down people engaged in constitutionally protected speech

The military is different and its rules are more restrictive than society broadly, and for good reason. They are a close-knit, racially diverse group, and internal friction can create problems. The uniform is not merely clothing; it is supposed to symbolize uniformity of outlook and purpose. Personal matters are supposed to remain personal. The nature of the tasks the military undertakes requires obedience to orders, including in situations like combat where one’s natural instincts scream, “Run away!” 

But it is notable which examples of free speech servicemen feel perfectly comfortable and protected in and those they generally avoid. Right-wing views and mild criticism of the leadership are out, even when they find a significant number of adherents among the populace.

Homosexual kink in the form of “dog play,” on the other hand, is perfectly OK. 

The Military Got Woke Quickly

It’s not surprising these guys feel comfortable hinting at their secret lives, wearing the uniform for dramatic effect. In fairly short order, the military has gone from prohibiting open homosexuality, to mandatory discretion in the form of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” to where we are today: open celebrations and promotions of homosexuality from military commanders and the top brass at the Pentagon.

There is no similar recognition for heterosexuals (or swingers, for that matter). But, as in corporate America and on campus, one type of sexual minority is upheld as an heroic ideal, while everyone else is supposed to play along, pretending they do not care or are not freaked out. The same playbook that made everyone ignore the lowered standards to force women into combat units is now being used to protect extremely deviant canine-wannabe homosexuals. 

While this has been happening, the military has been taking sides on other culture war issues, openly siding with the deep state against Donald Trump. Division commander General Patrick Donohoe was reprimanded after getting into a “flame war” with both Tucker Carlson and former Marine officer and American Greatness contributor Josiah Lippincott. During the summer of riots in 2020, many former generals and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley openly defied the commander in chief, including his prerogative to use force to stop violence.

Republicans Used to Be the Pro-Military Party

One defining aspect of conservatives and Republicans, particularly after Vietnam, has been support for the military. If Democrats and the Left learned from Vietnam that the draft is bad, Americans are not always the good guys, and wars are sometimes more trouble than they’re worth, Republicans instead saw too much political meddling and not enough guts on the part of the decision makers. They would uphold the military’s conservative ideals of physical courage, honor, and service as being more elevated and worthy of respect, even though it was now the province of a small group of volunteers. 

The post-Vietnam, all-volunteer force would obtain lavish support and be revamped to win the kind of war it won in World War II—a large conventional fight in Europe. Particularly during the Reagan era, increased defense spending led to improvements throughout the military, not only in equipment, but also in pay, housing, and the quality of new soldiers and officers. The swift and decisive victory in the Gulf War, which coincided with the peaceful American victory in the Cold War, further increased the public’s and the politicians’ perception of American military strength and capability. 

After 9/11, the military took center stage in the Global War on Terror. This was the “Thank you for your service” era, when the small professional military received copious accolades and deference. The praise also flowed from collective guilt, as George W. Bush told the rest of America to go out and shop. 

For eight years in Iraq and two decades in Afghanistan, the military fought long, indeterminate wars that did not end in victory. Dissatisfaction with the wars’ lack of progress had a lot to do with Obama’s election over the militant John McCain.

Incompetence and Partisanship Lead to a

Decline in Support

The chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, made worse by the self-congratulation and lack of soul searching on the part of military leadership, left a permanent dent in the military’s prestige and perceived competence. The open defiance of President Trump’s authority to use the military domestically occurring just months before the slimy Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman’s testimony in the first Trump impeachment, the deployment of thousands of troops at the Capitol for the Biden inauguration, and the new secretary of defense’s call for a “stand down” to address an alleged scourge of right-wing extremists, caused Republicans to lose faith in the military they long supported. 

Social media made the military’s hostility to social conservatives even more apparent. While it’s true that many in the ranks are still conservative and austere in their lifestyles, they are also more diverse in attitude and practice than the plaster saints of conservatives’ imagination. The leadership has also become extremely solicitous of the managerial class with whom they rub elbows while serving at the Pentagon. Gays, women, and minorities are now in, while white, male, Christians have became persona non grata. 

While declining respect for the military and its apparent decline in quality is concerning, it is in some ways a healthy development for one party not to be so closely associated with and uncritical of the military. 

Prior to Vietnam, the military ideal was a nonpartisan one. It was a tool in the hands of the elected president, himself acquiring authority from the American people. It was not the province of one party or another, nor of a “deep state.” Afterwards, there was worry for a time that the military was becoming overly political and too closely associated with the Republican Party, particularly during the difficult civil-military relations of the Clinton years. That has since been completely reversed, particularly at the top, creating a different set of problems.

Pentagon leadership is at a crossroads. During the Obama and Trump years, it has chosen to look upward for its guidance, seeking favor exclusively with its congressional and bureaucratic patrons, while paying scant attention to the American people and their view of things. This is why the rainbow flags and sex change surgeries for transexuals seem to make sense. Everyone in Washington, D.C., thinks this way, even many of the Republicans, so it is easy to imagine the opposition is only a tiny, atavistic minority of extremists.

But Washington, D.C., is not representative of America. It has become increasingly a distant, wealthy, and haughty Imperial City—the swamp—which has neither connection to nor respect for the American people.

The brass ignore the American people at their peril. The good old boys who used to join the combat arms, often from long family traditions of service, are starting to doubt whether there is any future for them in the woke military. Surveys suggest veterans are less enthusiastic about their children serving than they were only a few years ago. The military is facing recruiting challenges even worse than at the height of the dangers and high operational tempo of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. 

The military may soon discover that for reasons of their social outlook and endemic mental illness, the young and woke folks they are trying to impress will not fill in the gaps.

About Christopher Roach

Christopher Roach is an adjunct fellow of the Center for American Greatness and an attorney in private practice based in Florida. He is a double graduate of the University of Chicago and has previously been published by The Federalist, Takimag, Chronicles, the Washington Legal Foundation, the Marine Corps Gazette, and the Orlando Sentinel. The views presented are solely his own.

Photo: Paul Chinn/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

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